California Elected Officials Mark the 34th Anniversary of the Sumgait Pogroms

March 1, 2022

Elected Officials in California marked the 34th anniversary of the Sumgait Massacres by Azerbaijan and urged the Biden Administration to end U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan, in a series of statements and posts on their social media pages, reported the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR).

“On this solemn day of remembrance, we reflect on what the state-sponsored incitement of racist violence can lead to when left unchecked – and deplore the Azerbaijani government’s ongoing institutionalized dehumanization of the Armenian people,” said Nora Hovsepian, Esq, ANCA-WR Chair. “We join with friends of Armenia and advocates of human rights in thanking our elected officials for marking the 34th anniversary of the pogroms and call on the U.S. Government to stop providing military aid to the tyrannical regime in Baku and materially empowering them to continue invading and occupying Artsakh and Armenia,” she continued.

Congressional Armenian Caucus Vice-Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) released a statement, where he honored the victims of the pogroms by stating “These are the horrific consequences when aggression and hatred grow unchecked – and it is why, whether these crimes against humanity occurred one year, thirty years, or a hundred years ago, we can never allow them to go unrecognized.” “More than that, it is why the United States must fully step into its role as a defender of democracy and peace around the world. We must not relent in our calls for the safe and unconditional release of the remaining Armenian prisoners of war and captured civilians, for the end of U.S. assistance to the Aliyev regime, and for stronger efforts to support democracy in Armenia and a free, independent Artsakh. So let us pause to remember those who suffered in the atrocities of the Sumgait and Baku pogroms. But let us also recommit ourselves and our nation to doing everything we can, today, to bring liberation to our Armenian brothers and sisters abroad, once and for all,” he continued.

Fellow Congressmember Brad Sherman and Caucus member also released a statement, honoring the memories of the victims of the Sumgait Pogroms by stating “This stark reminder remains evident today as the government of Azerbaijan continues its state-sponsored policy of aggression against Armenia and Artsakh. The world witnessed the consequences of Azerbaijan’s unchecked hatred against Armenians during the invasion of Artsakh in 2020 as Azeri forces committed horrendous war crimes against Armenian civilians, including women and the elderly, and illegally imprisoned Armenian POWs after the cessation of hostilities. Many POWs are still held by Azerbaijan.”

Congressmember Rep. Ted Lieu released a Congressional Record statement on March 2, 2022 condemning Azerbaijani attacks on Armenians in Sumgait (1988) and Baku (2000) and the ongoing aggression against Armenia and Artsakh by stating “Throughout the dispute over Artsakh, anti-Armenian hatred and propaganda spread rapidly throughout Azerbaijan. It was this hatred and propaganda that fueled the Sumgait and Baku pogroms.” “We must be vocal in rejecting hatred, violence, and discrimination—and work tirelessly to ensure that history does not repeat itself. I ask that my colleagues join me in honoring the memory of those lost in the Sumgait and Baku pogroms. And I will continue to work with the Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus to reaffirm our commitment to combating human rights abuses around the world,” he continued.

“Today marks the 34th anniversary of the Sumgait Pogroms when innocent Armenian civilians were tortured and massacred,” stated CA Congressmember Tony Cárdenas and member of the CA Congressional Armenian Caucus. “As we honor their memory, we continue to call for the safe and unconditional release of all Armenian POWs illegally detained by the Aliyev regime in Azerbaijan,” he continued.

Senator Anthony Portantino who became the first elected official from the U.S. to visit  Artsakh since the end of the 44-day war, in November of 2021, shared a photo from his trip in a destroyed residential home and stated “Today we commemorate the tragic pogroms against Armenians in Sumgait/Baku & call attention to decades-long persecution that continues. Unprovoked invasion/aggression against Artsakh by Azerbaijan is state-sponsored hostility against Armenians. It is critical we condemn/speak out.”

Fellow Senator Melissa Melendez, tweeted “Today marks the 34th anniversary of the first of several government-encouraged massacres to eradicate the Armenian population and cultural influence from Azerbaijan. Injustice should concern everyone. As human hatred destroys life, human charity has the power to preserve it”

Assemblymember Chris Holden, who authored ACR-105 and led the effort to connect California and the Syunik Province as sister states, stated “On February 27, 1988, and for three days to follow, Azerbaijani mobs assaulted and killed Armenians living in Azerbaijan. The pogroms shattered and devastated the Armenian community. This was an eruption of the the years of racist anti-Armenian propaganda by Azerbaijani government, dehumanizing the Armenian residents of Azerbaijan and creating an explosion of mass violence. In 2020, the Azerbaijani authorities incited violence and trauma once again for Armenians living in Armenia and their diaspora. This is why ACR-105 Sister State with Syunik is so important to me. We set precedent for the future with our action or inaction and today, we are creating long-lasting ties to thread forward a better tomorrow. There is power in our solidarity and there is even more so, when we acknowledge the wrongs committed and human rights violations and urge for justice today. I ask the Biden Administration to Zero-out U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan and strengthen Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan until their ongoing aggression ends.”

LA CIty Councilmember Kevin De Leon and ANCA-WR endorsed candidate for the 2022 Los Angeles Mayor honored the victims by stating “February 27 marks the somber anniversary of the pogroms committed against Armenians in Sumgait, Baku, Kirovabad, and Maragha by Azerbaijan. I wish to extend my voice to honor the victims of these pogroms. Acts of Armenophobia, however, have continued over the past two decades, including the invasion against the Republic of Artsakh in late 2020, threatening to destroy the very culture of Armenians. I urge the Biden Administration to take swift and decisive action to end ongoing aggressions by Azerbaijan against the Republic of Artsakh, especially in the face of security threats by Russia that aim to destabilize the region.”

Fellow LA City Councilmember, Mitch O’Farrell who represents the Little Armenia neighborhood, stated “Today we pause to remember the gruesome anti-Armenian pogroms that were carried out with unspeakable cruelty in Soviet Azerbaijan. Over several days in 1988, ethnic Armenians in Soviet Azerbaijan were chased down, brutally attacked and killed by violent mobs in the industrial city of Sumgait. People were killed in public places and even in their own homes. These events were the first in a series of additional violent pogroms and clashes that resulted in a mass exodus of Armenians from Soviet Azerbaijan, and eventually a full-scale war in the region. While these events took place in the waning years of the Soviet Union, they reverberate to this day and were matched in cruelty during the recent violent and unprovoked invasion against the Republic of Artsakh. I am deeply proud to represent Little Armenia and so many in the Armenian community. Today, I join the Armenian-American community in calling on the Biden Administration to end U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan and strengthen Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act restrictions on U.S. military assistance to that country.”

The Armenian community, which had been instrumental to the social, economic, and cultural fabric of the society, was subjected to the most violent massacres deportation, leaving behind their ancestral homes and property from 1988-1992. The anti-Armenian pogroms were the culmination of decades-long discrimination, harassment, and persecution. The first anti-Armenian massacre was carried out in the industrial city of Sumgait, not far from the capital city of Baku. Although the official Soviet tally listed 26 victims, according to unofficial sources and eyewitness accounts, the death toll was significantly higher and exceeded several hundreds. During the course of three days, from February 26-29, 1988, Azerbaijani mobs, assisted and encouraged by the country’s authorities, massacred, burned, raped, mutilated and harassed ethnic Armenians whose personal information were provided beforehand.

Armenian homes were looted and destroyed, while the large-scale killing of Armenians were carried out indiscriminately, without regard to age or gender. Following the Sumgait tragedy, the pogroms in Kirovabad (Gandzak), Shamakhi, Shamkhor and other cities resumed in November of 1988, culminating with the heinous pogrom against Armenians in Baku in January 1990, leaving an estimated 500+ Armenians dead. The Baku Pogrom marked the final exodus of Armenians in Azerbaijan.

The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region is the largest and most influential nonpartisan Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues in pursuit of the Armenian Cause.

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Verginie Touloumian
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Armenian National Committee of America - Western Region
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